Mayor Martin Walsh made yet another move that shows just how far the city of Boston is willing to go in its quest to improve its citizens’ lives by using new technologies and data collected by Internet companies, mobile application makers, and others.
As traffic becomes a hot-button issue — the other major transportation problem besides the MBTA to arise as Boston has been buried by snow — the city said today that it has formed a new data-sharing partnership with real-time traffic application Waze.Waze, an Israeli-based company that was acquired by Google for more than $1 billion in 2013, relies on data supplied by its users to create real-time traffic overviews and gives constantly updated information to drivers to find the most time-efficient routes to their destinations.
“Over the past few weeks, it has become clear how critical it is to find innovative ways to improve traffic flow in the City of Boston,” Mayor Walsh said in a statement. “I thank Google for their partnership in providing us with another way to use data to better improve how city government works.”
“We are at the tip of the iceberg of how we are going to continually be able to use big data for congestion management across the city,” said Matt Mayrl, the City of Boston’s deputy chief information officer.
The city said that it will use the shared Waze data to improve the traffic flow in Boston. The partnership will allow the city to share information on road closures with Waze users and also use the aggregated traffic data from the app to adjust Boston’s 550 signalized intersections through Boston’s Traffic Management Center. Currently, there are more than 400,000 Waze users in the Boston area.
“It’s great that we are now able to push more real-time data to Waze users,” said Boston Commissioner of Transportation Gina Fiandaca.
The Waze deal is the latest in a series of partnerships the city has struck with innovative new technologies. Recently, Boston partnered with the ever-controversial taxi alternative Uber to share anonymized passenger data. Waze has been in the news for some less contentious issues, ranging from outcries from neighborhoods railing against their roads becoming alternate traffic routes thanks to the app and a recent complaint by the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department that Waze’s police indicator feature puts officers in danger.
Peter Ganong, the city’s special assistant for data analytics, said that the Boston Police Department has been and is playing a part of this partnership with Waze. “The police officers are the ones who close the roads,” he said, “so we are getting that road closure info from the BPD, and the BPD has been an active player in this relationship.”